When I was five, I fell in love with my granny’s purple bedroom carpet. Every weekend, I would bring all my toys and luxuriate on it. I can still remember the exact colour: a lovely deep royal purple. Mum and Dad saw how peculiar I was with it, and when I got my own room, a year or two later, they put the same carpet in there. I was absolutely thrilled.
Later, Mumbought me a Goofy jumper that had a white body with purple arms and a purple detail, and I loved it with a passion. At school, the lining of my blazer was royal purple; no one else had secret flair inside their uniform, although I used to get bullied horribly for it. I always wore purple socks and a discreet purple badge somewhere, too.
In my twenties, dressing entirely in purple became my thing. As my career as a set designer and artist took off, I felt a pressure to keep up my signature look. People would say, “Oh you must meet Gary – he’s hilarious, he only wears purple,” and then I’d arrive at a meeting not wearing it and realise I had disappointed them. It was helpful to have a memorable quirk, but I also think it stopped me from getting some jobs, perhaps because people thought I would make everything purple. I do use it in my work, but only as a highlight, because I genuinely think it brings stuff to life. It’s an interesting colour. It’s hot and it’s cold at the same time; it’s red and it’s blue. It is mystical and yet carries a feeling of grandeur.
These days, I wear purple underwear, as well as purple socks, and usually a purple shirt or purple trousers, but rarely both together. I’m thirty-seven, and I stopped wearing head-to-toe purple in my early thirties; I guess I felt a bit like a parody of myself. Even so, I have lost count of how many purple items I have – I couldn’t put a number on it.
Purple is always there, in fashion. Although it is said to be the hardest colour to sell, it’s usually easy to find. Raf Simons used to do a lot of purple stuff. Kim Jones’s latest collection for Dior has a lot of gorgeous purple silk. I had to limit how much Paul Smith I was buying, because there is a lot in his collections – I have three of his purple suits. I like other colours, such as oxblood, and am a sucker for petrol blues and cousins of purple, such as lilac or violet, but they are shades that complement the mother colour. I don’t think there is anywhere I wouldn’t wear purple. My dad always said wear big colours to his funeral; I did him proud.
It’s not only clothes. I have purple bedding and a purple sofa, and until recently I had a purple toaster. The most expensive things I have are my two purple portfolios: one in purple leather, the other in purple suede. I had them made when I first got igned to an agent, to show my work. They make me look like a touring hair salon owner, but I love them.
It’s super easy to buy me presents. Mum bought me thirty different purple toothbrushes for Christmas; she’d been collecting them all year. One time, my friends went to different corner shops and bought me every purple cleaning product they could find and presented them to me in a bin bag – it was funny and brilliant. A lot of people give me Prince stuff, which makes me happy as it’s purple by default. I do love Prince, but not because of purple.
I’m readinga lot of Prince biographies at the moment and the books tend to be purple, so sometimes I’m a purple guy reading a purple book. This combination has proved
irresistible to some commuters: people covertly take pictures of me. I see their phone slowly rise as they try to take
their shot – and then they look away quickly. I’m like, “Dude, I know what you’re doing.”
Maybe it’s because I am in tune with it, but quite often I will see another purple person out on the street and get a tingle of kinship kinship and purple envy. I wish I could be more of a purple